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Stephen Harper’s message: give me a fascist any day

John Bell

October 19, 2018

Former Prime Minister and current corporate reptile Stephen Harper recently told Global News: “I look at Donald Trump. Obviously, there’s things that I’m uncomfortable with but the Bernie Sanders of the world or the Jeremy Corbyns in Britain are the ones that really, really frighten me.”


We presume Harper is “uncomfortable” with Trump’s flirtations with fascism, employing racists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller in the White House, and refusing to condemn Nazis marching in the streets. Perhaps there is a minor disagreement over the fact that Trump will address the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit – a group that is virulently anti-LGTBQ+ and has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. Trump will share the podium with Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, a leading anti-Muslim racist.


Harper didn’t stop there. He also gave a nod to Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, an anti-immigration party well to the right of the British Tories. Farage has made a career of flirting with fascist groups, and manipulating Islamophobia to grow his party. He has been adept at connecting Brexit nationalism to anti-Muslim racism. Farage has more than done his part to drive reported hate crimes in the UK up about 40 %, from 5,949 in 2016-17 to 8,336 in 2017-18, according to the Home Office data.


“The Donald Trumps of the world, the Nigel Farages of the world — one can disagree with them, especially a conservative like myself,” Harper told his interviewer. “But they are at least trying to fix what they see ails democratic, capitalist, market-oriented societies and my fear is if they don’t have success or if conservatives do not adapt to the political pressures that are driving these movements, my concern is we will have the left-wing version of that, which will be anti-market, which will be socialist or Marxist economics, which I believe would turn us in an irreversible, downturn direction.”


Just to be clear, Harper would have polite disagreements with neo-fascists, bigots and white-supremacists, but gladly ally with them to save the free market. But people who are actively fighting against racism and for better lives for working people – whatever criticisms one might make of Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, that broadly describes both their long political careers – “really, really frighten” him.


Harper has a book to sell and he’s in say-something-sensational mode, but what he describes is a world trend, not just his personal creepiness (although there is that, this is Stephen Harper after all). Check the vicious, racist austerity regime of the faltering British Tories; of the US Republicans refusing to bar out-and-out white supremacists from running for office under their banner; of Australian conservatives who parade their xenophobic policies to maintain power; or our own Tory Ontario Premier (and long-time Harper ally) Doug Ford who refuses to denounce an outright neo-Nazi running for mayor of the country’s biggest city. Everywhere an economic system based on inequality and oppression is ready to turn to fascism to solve its pesky democracy problem.


Unlike Harper, that’s what really, really frightens me.


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